5 principles of Lean methodology at work: Lean Thinking - Part II of II

5 principles of Lean methodology at work: Lean Thinking - Part II of II

Applied Lean Thinking

We decided to apply ‘Lean Thinking’ concepts to some processes we follow in our Organization. We have identified few common processes & tried to analyze them as per the methodology suggested. The Case Studies are presented in the following section.

Case 1: Lean Methodology Applied to Handling Enhancement Requests in ERP Solution


Getting an Enhancement Request (ER) is a routine matter for any support project. When the application is Global the number of ERs will be even more.

We studied such an application where 12-15 Enhancement Requests are being completed every month. The support application is on Global level, with @ 25 subsidiaries & 24X7 support. The Customer has a Centre of Excellence (COE) to decide on priority, evaluation & validation of Enhancement Requests.  

The Process Flow Diagram of Enhancement Request (ER) handling is as enclosed…

The problem definition

The resultant of the overall process flow is that  if the Enhancement Request is received today 

1. It will not be implemented for Six Months unless it is prioritized & escalated by COE.

2. It can get delayed in certain cases due to other priorities.

3. The requests are logged & handled serially on FIFO basis.

4. Since the requests are handled serially chances are that duplicate work is carried out in Impact Analysis & Development Process. For Example ER can contain the primary applications as OM-Finance-PO-OM-MRP-OM-PO-Finance. Here three OM ERs are handled separately which can have similar Impact Analysis.

6. It is difficult to predict the skill-set of development personnel & hence difficult to arrange them resulting in queue at development stage.

7. In a Global Scenario the patch-set level of various servers differ, bringing in the problems at the time of Migration.

Activity Analysis 

A typical software development program follows a Waterfall Model where a process of development of Software is seen as flowing steadily downwards in phases of requirement analysis, design, implementation, testing etc.

But from the point of view of a Customer the only Core Value Added Activities are (a) Technical Development & (b) Migration to the system. Other activities are no doubt value added but will fall in a category of non-core activities from the point of view of Customers as he is not concerned in what manner you have produced the code.

An excel sheet is attached which gives a list of all activities and its minimum, median & maximum completion time. Abbreviations used : CVA : Core Value Added Process; NCVA : Non-Core Value Added Process.

Value stream mapping of the process

The Value Stream Mapping shows that the actual action time in the process is 50 hrs. which is 9.4 % of the total elapsed time (66x8 = 528 hrs) of the process.  There are only two Core Value Added Processes & many Core but non value added processes. Lot of time is lost in waiting of approvals & other queues. The typical process moves from one queue to another queue. 

KAIZEN™ Questionnaire on the process

1. How can we reduce core non-value-added activities?

2. Can we cut down the number of processes?

3. How can we bring control on processes not in our control?

4. Can we combine various requests & work on them?

5. Can we take an approach similar to Cellular Mfg?

6. How can we reduce the waiting time, approval time & communication time?



Proposed Solution

A Release can be planned combining 15 to 25 Enhancement Requests.

A Release can be scheduled once a month or after a suitable period.

Three units with direct responsibility of the Release can be made operational.

The ‘Customer Response Cell’ will be a single point contact for all Release related information to the user.

‘Product Enhancement Work-Centre’ will combine various functions from Impact Analysis to Migration. This will be a cross functional team working under a single operational head. He will be responsible for Release deadline. All the processes including those of approvals, UAT also will be a responsibility of this work-centre. 

‘Release Management Cell’ will be a steering committee for the Release. It will have senior members from COE & Service Provider. Release Tracking, Resource Provisions, Schedule Adjustments, Business Impact Analysis will be key functions of this team.

This approach is similar to a cellular manufacturing where a group with diversified skills completes the job removing the waiting times & queues from the process.

Projected Business Impact of the Solution

Author & Acknowledgement: James Womack & Jim Womack

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